desolate day

The weather outside has turned ugly. A cold wind is bearing down on Estrella Vista from the northeast and has stirred up so much brown-gray grit and dust that the surrounding mountains are ghostly silhouettes.

I’ve been hiding out all day in the warmth of my little house, napping and procrastinating the five-minute round trip to the chicken coop to feed the birds. It was sunset by the time that I’d finally worked up the courage to venture outside, and the scene of the cold gray sun dipping behind the mountains was evocative of scenes from Lord of the Rings.

I thought that if nuclear winter ever comes, its first day might look like this. I imagined cities in the outside world, reduced to rubble, their dust swept up by the winds to be deposited here. This may sound weird, but German wartime music intruded on my consciousness—not the triumphal martial music of the early years, but the popular music that kept the masses in denial and soldiering on through to the final days of abject ruin and defeat.

I’m pretty sure these thoughts were triggered by the memory of predictions by one of the guests at Thanksgiving dinner that we are experiencing the death throes of the dollar, the Euro, and other fiat world currencies. That thought, like today’s winds, is chilling.

Anyway, the voice of the Swedish diva Zarah Leander is echoing in my head and the only way for me to dispatch it and move on to other things is to share it here with you.

Both these songs are from the Ufa’s Die große Liebe (The Great Love), directed by Rolf Hansen, the most commercially successful film of Germany’s National Socialist years. Between its premier in June 1942 and November 1944, 28 million admissions were sold.

I won’t bore you with the details of the plot, but this musical melodrama is the story of a love affair between Hanna Holberg (Zarah Leander), a Danish chanteuse, and Luftwaffe Lieutenant Paul Wendtland (Viktor Staal), in which the lovers struggle (through a whole series of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, one after another) to reconcile their love with their duty to the nation’s war effort. Nevertheless their bond grows in strength and arouses the jealousy of the composer Rudnitzky (Paul Hörbiger), who is also in love with Hanna. Making the most of a bad situation, the lovers agree to live for the moment. The last shots of the film show the happy couple, confident in the future, looking skyward as squadrons of German bombers fly past.

Here, ensconced in a set that looks like something from a mushroom-induced vision, Zarah Leander performs “Ich weiß, es wird einmal ein Wunder gescheh’n” (I Know a Miracle Will Happen):


After 1942, as the military situation became more and more desperate for Germany, this song and the one below became staple elements in propaganda geared to “seeing it through.” Today “Ich weiss, es wird einmal ein Wunder geschehen” and “Davon geht die Welt nicht unter” are idioms in the German language.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Zarah Leander performing “Davon geht die Welt nicht unter” (It’s Not the End of the World)

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